Deep Observation Assignment: Eleven Examples


Tyana Soto

Sylvia’s hands shook as she gently placed an embellished gold necklace into its felt box.

It was beautiful to her, so beautiful that she almost didn’t want to sell it. She placed it on the table next to the other necklaces and admired how stunning it looked in the morning light. After staying up for hours polishing and cleaning it carefully she couldn’t help but smile at the sight of it. It was perfect, and she was so glad that she was able to put it on her table next to all of the other knickknacks. She straightened a golden frame with an antique picture, and looked around at the crowd that was beginning to come already.

She felt her heart beating.

Oh, how she loved these mornings; the weekends of the flea market, the weekends of her life. All week her hands would flutter around her precious trinkets with anxiety, just waiting and longing for the weekend to arrive. On Friday night she would lie in bed extra early with her eyes shut tight hoping that the next morning had arrived. She loved waking up and hauling her things to the small white tent. It was magic seeing the different people come, and the way that they swarmed to her table and admired all of her things. She was a big seller, and seemed to be one of the most successful ones in the market.

Pulling the soft cloth from her pocket, Sylvia walked over to her porcelain section and began wiping off the dust fondly. Even though she had done it before she left she still felt it necessary to do it again. If something looked clean people were more likely to look and possibly buy. There was nothing worse than something dirty and uncared for. People wanted bright and shiny. It was the first rule of the flea market.

When she was finished buffing and cleaning all glass objects, she slowly shuffled to the center of her square of tables and sat down slowly into her green and yellow lawn chair. She remembered when she had first started selling at flea markets. Her kids were young, her marriage had just begun, and life was good. She and John would load the kids in the van with things they had bought at garage sales, and they would sell all day. John would be the ultimate salesman, bringing people over with his magnetic smile, and always making a sale no matter how big or small. The kids would gallop through the streets like horses, talking to vendors and playing games with the other children. They were all so happy, and so drawn to the life of buying and selling.

But then the kids got older, the van was traded in for a newer car, and John got sick. The weekends at the flea market were scarce, and eventually they stopped going. Now that everyone was gone she could do that again.

No, she was not that vibrant woman she once was. The one with jet black hair and a tiny waist who would always catch stares on the streets. Her clothes were looser, hair grey, and body a little slower. She used to be able to haul everything from the van into the tent with no problems at all. Now she needed help. But life was just the same, and Sylvia could almost hear her kids running towards her, mouths stained red and blue from the ice pops they had eaten. Smiles big as the sun. She may be alone now, and her life may consist of tiny porcelain dolls with perfect faces, but that life made her happy.

“Excuse me, but is this real gold? Its beautiful.”

Sylvia glanced up to see a woman holding the gold necklace in the velvet box. With a smile she slowly got up from her chair and said, “Yes honey, 100% authentic 14-karat gold. A special necklace for a special woman like you.”

Life was going to be all right.

Discussion Questions

  • Why would somebody want to read this piece (the “Who cares?” factor)?
  • Can you clearly identify the author’s intention for the piece?
  • How well does the author support the intention of the piece? Cite specific details that support or take away from the author’s intention.
  • Is there information missing from this piece that would make its intention clearer? What else would you like to know?
  • Does the author portray herself as a round character? How does she do this?
  • Do you trust the author of this piece? Why or why not?
  • How clearly does the author establish a sense of setting/space in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
  • How clearly does the author establish characters other than the self in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
  • Did you learn anything new from reading this piece? If so, what?
  • Are there particular passages with engaging language/description that stood out to you? Describe the appeal of these passages.
  • Would you read more writing from this author? Why or why not?


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